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  • district volunteers - making a world of difference

    drilling for oil in Torquay


    2019 Vol 4 No 2 Issue 014


    ISSN 2207-1350

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    Torquay Museum Without Walls is a proud volunteer-run organization. In publishing History Matters our volunteers do everything from research, writing, editing, photography and page layouts. Each edition also includes contributions of stories and photography from supporters of our work.

    We are very grateful for the support of our sponsors identified opposite and those who contribute in any way to the magazine.

    Volunteers play an important role in the operation of our history group. They work in a variety of areas including research, filing, data entry, collections management, photography and working with community groups.

    VOLUNTEER WITH US: We welcome new people and you don’t have to be an expert in history. A friendly attitude and willingness to join in is all you need.







    Torquay Surf Life Saving Club

    Rotary Club Torquay

    Torquay RSL

    More Front Lines: D Day

    Red Cross

    Waurn Ponds Hotel








    Apex Club of Torquay

    Local volunteering

    Torquay Food Aid

    Torquay Fire Brigade

    Jan Juc Coast Group

    Friends of Taylor Park

    Drilling for Oil




    Story of SANE

    'Take a Breath' Playgroup

    Torquay SES

    Supporting local history


    COVER: WW1 Red Cross

    State Library South Australia

    OPPOSITE: CFA Patrolman

    SES rescue Early Torquay Lifesaving Club

    DESIGN & LAYOUT: Cheryl Baulch

    EDITOR: Lulu Beel

    CONTRIBUTORS: Deakin University students

    Cheryl Baulch Luke Hynes

    Ian & Roma Edwards Graeme Stockton

    Rosemary Faris Peter Thomas

    Lois Gill Graeme Jackman

    Richard Greenhough Gwen Threlfall

    IMAGES: Wayne Richardson

    Louis Leighton Jan Juc Coast Action Group

    Ian Edwards SANE

    Rosemary Faris Ron Worland

    Peter Thomas Graeme & Lorraine Jackman

    Richard Greenhough Torquay Surf Life Saving Club

    Geelong Heritage Centre Archives Graeme McCartney

    Margaret Van Rompaey Torquay Fire Brigade

    Geoff Winkler Gwen Threlfall

    The material in this magazine is copyright, apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study, research, criticism or review as permitted under the Copyright Act 1958 and subsequent amendments, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without prior written permission. Every attempt has been made to contact copyright holders for permission to reproduce their work in this magazine. Enquiries should be made to [email protected]

    ABN: 76 748 251 593 Inc. No.: A0092421C

    Printed by Coast Print, Torquay [email protected]

    Torquay MUSEUM Without Wal ls

  • Page 5 | Page 4 |

    State Library Victoria - Palaeontologist George Pritchard

    State Library Victoria

    drilling for oil

    We have all been to Point Addis, a beach renowned and adored for its natural serenity and unaltered beauty. Most of the locals may not even realise that it came very close to being a small part of the site of an oil field run by various oil companies. If you head down there today you may still stumble upon an oil well just off Point Addis Road. Four of the oil well sites were in the area we today call Jan Juc, and were managed by a company called Torquay Oil Wells.

    It all began in the 1920s, with the search for oil beginning to advance within Torquay. It had already started in the Gippsland region, east of Melbourne and experts started to

    speculate about the existence of the precious resource along the coast between Torquay and Anglesea. This particular expert was Dr George Baxter Pritchard, a geologist who would later become the founder for the Torquay Oil Wells company.

    Originally from Gravesend,

    England, Dr Pritchard moved over to Melbourne, Australia with his mother when he was only three years old. He studied natural science at the University of Melbourne between 1888- 1891, and passed his degree of Doctor of Science by thesis in 1910. He went on to teach at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), then known as the Working Men’s College, for 42 years. Throughout his time as a teacher, he was well received by many of his students, some of whom even went on to become forerunners in the Australian mining industry. Dr Pritchard was also teaching at the Gordon Institute in Geelong. Outside of teaching, he was also heavily involved in geological works. He had a profound interest in palaeontology, with a focus on molluscs, and published several papers about fossil species. He was also a member of the Geological Society of London as well as the American Association of Petroleum Geologists, and provided geological consultations of oil searches across the whole of Australia.

    The presence of oil, and whether it could be extracted for use, would have the potential to change Torquay landscape from farming to mining, changing the future for

    some local residents. So, why did this impending future not actually happen?

    We will start at the beginning, before the formation of the Torquay Oil Wells company and others that were interested in finding oil within the region. What had led them to believe that oil was in the area? The answer was in the rocks.

    The Torquay region provided some geological evidence of the existence of oil, based on the types of rocks found within the area. Richard Daintree, a British geologist who relocated to Australia somewhere in the mid 1800s, decided to map the Torquay area between the years 1860 to 1863. He claimed that he did so because he recognised the significance of the Bird Rock outcrops, making particular mention of them in his reports with sketches made from some of the first photographs ever taken in Australia. However, he was working under the pretence that his work had geological significance, and that it was ‘routine mapping for geological survey’. His real agenda laid in sourcing out coal, which back then had a handsome sum of prize money attached to whoever could find it. Unfortunately for him, he missed the Anglesea mine by just a whisker.

    Later on, in 1922, Dr Pritchard held a lecture at the Gordon Institute, where he identified Torquay specifically as a region with favourable conditions for the discovery of oil. He had high hopes that oil would eventually be found there, even going to the extent of labelling it as a matter of national importance for Australia.

    The evidence for the oil was strong, and the success of

    extracting it from the ground was anticipated. Several companies were interested including Lakes Oil, a Jan Juc Syndicate and Victoria Petroleum Company. However, it was Torquay Oil Wells and Point Addis Oil Company that would attempt to drill for the oil. The drilling would be conducted with a series of numbered wells and bores located within the Otway Basin. In total, there were seven wells in Torquay; Torquay-1 to 5 was operated and owned by Torquay Oil Wells company and Torquay-6 and 7 by the Point Addis Company. Each well was created and drilled from late 1923 to mid 1924. The Torquay Oil Wells company raised £60,000 (nearly $5m today)with the cost of each onshore well being $2-3 million in today’s currency, a large amount considering the success rate of drilling is 1 in 6 or 1 in 7.

    In addition to these costs, there were costs associated with acquiring the land to drill on. Torquay Oil Wells had purchased more than twelve kilometres of coastline and more than twelve thousand acres of land. The promise of oil on this land was so great that more than a thousand acres were purchased at double the land value.

    At the time, it was a wonder of how long the company would be in the area and how long they would be drilling. Depending on the outcome of the drilling, the company would be granted a license that enabled them to drill for five years. The technology and equipment used at the time was slow, as it took some time for each well to be drilled to a certain level. Torquay-7, for example, took five months to drill 250 metres in 1924. To translate that into modern times, the Lakes Oil Company named Bellarine-1, took only a month to drill 2,139 metres in 2003.

    Deakin University students - Ainsley Karleusa, Charles Edmund Worrell- Smith, Darren Wong, Dimitri Skangos, Elisha Sacchetta, Jackson Mison,

    James Mathes, Tom King

  • Page 7 | Page 6 |

    Torquay prides itself on having a rich history in farming and agriculture. However, this oil project had the potential to change this heritage. Had the project been successful, it is likely that much of the land would have been taken over by the oil companies, as it is often difficult for farmers to deny them access to their privately owned land. This was due to existing Australian legislation, which specifically stated th